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THE PYRAMID                             49
Pharaohs. Incidentally, he was the son of Caliph Haroun Al Raschid, the famed character of the famous book Arabian Nights.
This Caliph Al Mamoun was no ordinary Caliph. He had ordered his scholars to translate the writings of the Greek sages into Arabic; he continually reminded his subjects of the virtues of study; and he himself took pleasure in joining the most learned men of his country in their discussions.
His imperial residence was in Baghdad and it was from this famous city that he came to Egypt. Not long after this attempt to open the Pyramid, he returned to Baghdad and there finished his life.
But the builders of the Great Pyramid, foreseeing that one day human cupidity would violate their structure, had placed the entrancevseveral feet to one side of the centre and considerably higher than anyone might reasonably expect a doorway to be situated. As a result, Al Mamoun's men worked for several months to penetrate the interior of the Pyramid without finding any sign of passage or room; nothing but solid masonry-presented itself to their view. And had they depended on hammer and chisel alone their undertaking would have endured as long as the reign of their king, and longer. But they were astute enough to build little bonfires against the stones and then, when the latter became red-hot, flung cold vinegar upon them until they cracked. To-day, one can still see the blackened charred surfaces of blocks which escaped the chisels that were so busy more than one thousand years ago. Two blacksmiths worked all day sharpening the chisels that bluated so quickly against the massive stones, while wooden engines were set up to assist the efforts of the weary men in forcing their way inside. Yet still the original entrance, the corridors and the inner rooms remained undiscovered.
The work of excavating in a narrow passage stifled the men with dust and heat, the difficulty of penetrating the hardest mass of solid masonry in the world with the primitive tools then available fatigued them almost beyond endurance, while the complete failure that was the only reward of their efforts disheartened them to the point of despair. They had tunnelled their way inwards for more than a hundred feet and at last they were on the point of putting down their tools in open mutiny and refusing to continue such useless labour, when the sound of a heavy stone falling out of place came to their ears